[CHALLENGE 4c1b]: Community Open Source AC/DC micro-grid design

This is Challenge 4c1b from CH 4c1: Community Renewable Energy


Local challenge with global implications


South Africa is powered by dirty coal. However, the government is now undertaking one of the world’s largest renewable energy efforts to date to supply renewable energy to the country. However, the regulators have not yet granted feedin tariffs for households and subsequently, this makes distributed community level renewable energy difficult.

The government as well as the national energy regulator NERSA is in a difficult position. Because it has already spent billions on new coal-fired plants. The government has already approved 3.9 GWatt of large scale renewable energy farms at an investment cost of $10 Billion with another round of bids to open in Dec 2015. As well, SA government is intent on spending billions on 8 Russian nuclear power plants in a very opaque deal.

Currently there is not enough power in the grid and SA economy is suffering a huge hit due to load shedding (rolling blackouts) but on the other hand, it cannot allow independent power producers if it locks in large power production projects from which it must recover costs by selling the electricity from these large centralized producers to South African consumers.

NERSA has said it will support feedin tariffs for householders and South Africa’s integrated resources plan for 2010-30 estimates both residential and commercial photovoltaic embedded generation could reach as many as 22.5 gigawatts by 2030.

It’s an uncertain energy environment in South Africa which impacts sustainable energy development and what the commons can do.


Activity: Global brainstorming session and initial design

Can the commons come up with a way to enable distribution at a community level to all communities but especially to marginalized communities? Is there room in the complex South African energy landscape for community energy production with support from AC/DC mini-grid systems? Is a circularly designed mini-grid system a feasible solution? How would it impact power for marginalized and non-marginalized communities alike?


  • electrical engineering
  • mini-grid
  • software
  • feedin tariffs
  • renewable energy
  • economics

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